Saturday, October 23, 2010

E to the M to the G

When I was first introduced to the guitar as a small wild child, there was only one thing I wanted to do.... and that was rock as loud as humanly possible. For me it was all about ass kicking, greatly defined, crisp distortion being pushed out of my midnight purple Charvel guitar. Boy did that guitar see some insane volumes. Then one day comes my buddy with this beastly looking V shaped Jackson equipped with EMG active pickups. I had never seen pickups of this nature and was instantly drawn in by their sleek and simple look. Next I would hear what these pickups were capable of, and from that day fourth it was all about those three lovely letters whenever wanting to take it full force... E-M-G. As the years went by my style of playing and taste in music would grow. I began falling in love with the roots of rock & roll, jazz, and later folk and country music. This led me to explore many different types of ceramic and alnico designed pickups. Fast forward a good 20 years later and I still reach for my EMG active pickup equipped guitar for heavy sessions, and alnico or ceramic magnet pickup guitars for mellower types of rock and other music. Recently I discovered EMG was building a wide variety of great quality, superbly priced, collection of passive pickups. At first I thought, "Ok, passive pickups. Cool, I'll try them". The results?.... read on.

SRO Series
OC-1 Neck/Bridge

Pickup Specs                            Neck    Bridge
Inductance:                                3.80       8.15
DC Resistance (kOhm)                7.35      16.90
Resonant Frequency (KHz) (2)     1.96       1.35
Resonant Frequency (KHz) (3)     3.18       1.95
Z @ Resonance (kOhm) (2)        46.70     69.00

Magnet Type: Alnico 5 w/Steel Pole Pieces
Wired In Series
Loaded w/500k Vol & Tone with a 20' Cable
Loaded w/1MegOhm / 47 pf
EMG-SRO Coil Wiring


Installing the OC-1 set was an absolute walk in the park. With the neatly arranged wiring system these pickups come with and the wiring diagrams that are provided, you can set them up for just about any sound. The SRO 5-Wire Cable also makes it easy to swap in & out of other SRO HZ Series pickups without having to re-solder anything. This gives you instant access to different tones and pickup characteristics on the fly. The OC-1 pickups themselves are built beautifully, and look and feel great. For the price asked you can't go wrong. I was actually quite impressed with the overall quality and look. As a guitar choice for the OC-1's we went with my buddy's  Les Paul Studio, which I thought would be the perfect choice. Now, I have owned many and played many different active EMG pickups, and in fact still own that EMG 81 equipped guitar from my youth. The one thing that has always stuck with me about the EMG sound is the clarity and projection that is sucked up from the pickups and pushed out through an amp. This would indeed be the first thing I would notice from the OC-1's.

I began playing the pickups through a reissue 1959 Super Lead and 4x12 cabinet. Starting with just the guitar'n'pickups, a proper cable, and the amp set sweetly clean. I did try the OC-1's through a handful of other amps which all sounded great, but the Super Lead was by far my favorite. I began strumming down on some open chords, barre chords, and blues licks and riffs, and just like any nice set of passive buckers I was able to hear plenty of warmth and lots of boomy bottom-end. With every run of the frets the pickups would push out plenty of sweet sweet mojo. Even better was the feel these baby's kicked out. Standing in front of my amp I could feel the pickup push out plenty of thump and growl. The sound would hit my back with powerful dose of vibrating sonic therapy. Along with a great sounding collection of booming lows the OC-1's also kicked out plenty of snap and bite, which made the treble and midrange frequencies sound spectacular. This really helped with painting the amp's clean tone character and feel. In the neck position the OC-1 was able to provide me with these beautifully balanced vintage/modern tones that were easy to shape and manipulate. With just a flip of the guitar's tone knob I was easily able to round out or soften the overall tone to my liking. This would later help me with getting kickass sounding woman tone. The guitar's volume control also worked quite nicely for finding interesting sounding tones. In the bridge position the pickup produced lots of sparkle and even more clarity. I was able to get more aggression from this pickup which made perfect for riffing and lead tones.The bridge pickup also made it easy to cut through any mix, and it did it without sounding harsh or tinny. This worked great for stacking up more than one guitar in live and recording situations. Next I slowly began to introduce a bit of the amp's natural overdrive, beginning with a very mild semi-clean tone. I did this by just cranking the amp's volume to get an idea of how the pickups would respond to natural overdrive. In both pickup positions the clarity and clean tone was still present, only now with a thin layer of glowing tube grit. The leftover clean tones blended with the now mild gritty undertones, made for some awesome note articulation. If ever you've taken your humbucker equipped guitar and stacked on a bit of EQ, whether it be a pedal, plug-in, or rack effect, you know the difference it can make. This was the vibe that I first got from these pickups, only on a much more subtle level. Taking the amp to a medium overdrive level I began to really hear what these pickups were capable of. Clean tones sounded awesome through these pickups, but the real magic began once a nice amount dirt was dialed in. The pickups dished out everything from blues and classic rock, to hard rock and heavy rock. With the amp now dialed in slightly hotter, I broke out a TS-808 style overdrive pedal and simple clean booster. I set the pedal with it's volume and tone knobs matched to the amp's gain st to hit the amp's signal pret-ty hard, and in neck pickup position. The pickups adapted beautifully to the OD pedal and together with the amp kicked out more grit, grime, and aggression. Every chord I pushed out through overdrive signal stayed smooth and intact. Just like in lower gain settings, in higher gain settings I also noticed great string separation. This created stunningly powerful rhythm tones that worked great with all types of music. The overall sound had a classic rock type feel only with a bit more midrange honk and definition. Getting a scorching blaring lead here was very very easy. All I had to do was incorporate the clean booster and I was home free. In fact, here I was able to switch in and out of semi-cleans, gritty rhythms, crunchy distortion, and rockin' leads. All possible thanks to the guitar's tone and volume knobs. In the neck pickup position the pickups and pedal created more of a modern tone. The OC-1's also responded quite nicely to the clean booster and sounded great with a little bit of analog delay. Overall the pickups did a great job. They were able to deliver different variations of both modern and vintage tones, they sounded great through both high and ow watt amps, and played well with many different stompboxes. For the price the OC-1's are a steal! Anyone looking for that crisp and clear EMG sound but wanting to keep it passive would do themselves proper by grabbing a set of these. 


For more info on EMG Pickups go to or click any of the EMG logos on our site. Make sure to also check out EMG TV on the website for killer demos and artist interviews, and cool performances. Stay tuned for more EMG pickup features here on AWC coming very soon.

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